Coffee United is a mobile coffee van owned and operated by Jon Argyle. The van can be found in the Woolworths car park in Preston, Victoria and opens Mon-Fri, 6am-11am.
Jon launched the business five years ago.
"Katrina had some family friends with coffee vans- I was between jobs at the time and it seemed like a good investment. In the beginning, you wonder how the hell you’ll survive. It took a little while to find a spot to park up... It’s grown each year."
Jon fondly refers to his morning clientele as the "car park family".
He's proud of the relationships he has built with his regulars over the last few years. "We have characters like 95-year-old Baz and his daschund Elsa- they just keep coming back," he laughs.
As well as the financial kind, Jon says that working in the Woolies carpark next to Centrelink has its own share of challenges. "The reality is, I'm hanging out in a dark carpark in Preston at 6 in the morning. I developed a rule pretty early on that covers a lot of situations: “Don’t engage.” I try to make a little barrier with my table and my A-frame stand."
At the moment, he says that the main goal for Coffee United is building the business up so that it can become its own entity. "When people come back, and keep coming back, I feel like that’s a little win for me," he muses.
"We have another family business (Welcome Organics) and we have kids. At the moment, I'm just plugging away and juggling things... I like the flexibility (of the coffee van)"
Coffee United serve Wild Timor Coffee beans.
When they first opened, Jon and Katrina picked them out of a myriad of samples. "We liked the Timorese beans. Everyone seems to like the coffee, and all the Wild Timor crew have always been so lovely. Kristy from the (Wild Timor Coffee Coburg) café helped me get the van set up."
Asked about his experience through the COVID-19 crisis, Jon responds, "I've been very lucky. I worked through the whole thing. All the weekend markets have been cancelled, but my morning spot in the carpark was fine."
He's noticed a marked difference in the interactions with his morning customers.
"People come in with anxiety, denial and conspiracy theories. There’s a few high rise apartments about and for some people I’ve been the only friendly face they've seen in three days. Centrelink and woolies have had unbelievable queues- people in tears telling me about losing their jobs, things like that. Being at the carpark's been really positive, though... People are paying coffees forward, I like to give away a few as well. I've been really lucky," he finishes.
"I thought it would be just another job. I never thought I would actually like it. It’s a good sign if you enjoy what you’re doing. I feel lucky that I get to hang out, and talk to lots of people every day."